AT Mile 275: Great Smoky Mountain Adventures
After hiking through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I finally understand why they call it Great. The Smokies are a force of nature.
Fontana Dam to Newport Gap
The past couple weeks have been quite the adventure. After arriving at Fontana Dam we spent a few days in Knoxville with family and friends, then headed back out to the trail with Isaac’s sister Rebekah and her husband, Frank.
Bekah and Frank planned to hike through the entire section of the Smokies with us, but the weather had other ideas.
Bad Weather Blues
The day we hiked after Clingmans Dome, a huge storm rolled in. We woke up and hiked five miles on flooded trails from Mount Collins Shelter to Newfound Gap. Here we were supposedly going to be able to catch a shuttle into Gatlinburg to resupply, but once we arrived at Newfound Gap we learned the park roads were all closed due to weather.
So what does any self-respecting hiker do when it’s freezing, raining, and miserable out? Hide in the heated bathroom, of course. Eventually someone was able to get in touch with the park service and let them know that 30 hikers were out of food and hiding from the weather in the bathrooms. Two buses from Sevierville Baptist Church finally came to bring us down the mountain, but not without hiccups.
Somehow in the time it took the shuttles to get up the mountain and back, this huge tree fell across the road. Flooding and high winds were the reason the roads were closed in the first place, obviously for good reason. But it didn’t take long for road crews to come clear the tree, so we were in town shortly.
We had planned to go into Gatlinburg just for a quick meal and resupply, but the closed roads made that impossible. Instead of a quick trip, we had to spend two nights in town. This sucked for a few reasons. If you’ve never been to Gatlinburg, I’ll let you in on a secret—it’s expensive. On top of the cost, the time spent in town meant we were off schedule. Bekah and Frank needed to get back to work, so they unfortunately weren’t able to finish hiking the Smokies with us. They headed home on Saturday, and we hit the trails as soon as the roads opened the morning of Easter Sunday.
We had our first hitch of the trip from the National Park sign with Margot, a lovely nurse visiting from Ohio. She drove us up from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap, stopping a few times to take in the gorgeous snowy scenery.
Newport Gap to Hot Springs, NC
Our hike through the rest of the Smokies went smoothly, and we had some beautiful views. The day we arrived at Newport Gap the snow melt was pretty brutal, so we only hiked in three miles to Icewater Spring Shelter.
The rest of the week consisted of some hard days, and after we got out of the Smokies we crushed our biggest day yet. We hiked 17 miles from Davenport Gap Shelter to Max Patch, and had a great time with friends there.
After Max Patch we ended up camping at Deer Park Mountain Shelter three miles from Hot Springs after a 16.5-mile day. We got into Hot Springs early Friday morning.
Hot Springs was nice, even though I did end up having a brief stomach bug. By Saturday afternoon I was feeling better, and I even got to enjoy their Hiker Fest activities.
Jennifer Pharr Davis was at Hiker Fest, and meeting her was really cool! She’s a huge inspiration and a major badass. If you haven’t checked out her book The Pursuit of Endurance yet, you should.
Tomorrow morning we hit the trail. We caught up with a few of our friends while in town, so we will hopefully be hiking with some familiar faces again. Next stop is Erwin, TN!
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